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Letters to the Charter Commission

In response to a Better Ballot Campaign call to action, a number of concerned citizens wrote letters to the Minneapolis Charter Commission in support of the Instant Runoff Voting charter amendment proposal.  Copies of the following letters were also sent to the Better Ballot Campaign:

----- Forwarded message from Lisa Disch -----
 
I write to express support for the Instant Runoff Voting Charter Amendment. IRV is an excellent method to approximate some of the advantages of proportional voting in a winner-take-all system, while avoiding the distortions of a time-delay run-off. The voting system in the United States is considered to be one of the least representative of all the Western democracies. It was designed during a period of revolution, a time when stability seemed to be the most important institutional value. These days, when the two-party system is widely perceived to insulate itself against dissenting voice, this institutional design is outmoded.

IRV is a well-regarded electoral alternative to winner-take-all voting. It deserves a good trial run in this country and the best way for it to have that is through local elections. It is a truism in political science that the states are "laboratories of democracy." The proposed Charter Amendment seeks to make good on exactly that. IRV deserves a trial run and Minneapolis, with its vibrant grass roots political culture, makes it a prime site.

Sincerely,

Lisa Disch
Professor of Political Science
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

----- Forwarded message from Kip Sullivan  -----

I am a supporter of the Better Ballot Campaign and a strong supporter of instant runoff voting (IRV). By representing voters' choices more accurately, IRV enhances democracy. The Florida vote in the 2000 presidential election illustrates that statement. The vast majority of those who voted for Ralph Nader, and thereby threw the election to George Bush, had no intention of promoting George Bush's candidacy. A substantial number, possibly the vast majority, of those Nader voters would no doubt have voted for Gore as their second choice had they been given that option.

Kip Sullivan
Ward 12

----- Forwarded message from Dennis Dillon -----

I am a Minneapolis resident and voter,  and I understand that you will be further discussing Instant Runoff Voting (IRV)  at your August 2 meeting.  I am writing to tell you why I like IRV and why I would encourage you to vote to allow a public vote to change the City Charter (which I understand is needed) in  order to have ALL Minneapolis City-sponsored elections conducted by use of IRV  methodology.

Why I favor Instant Runoff  Voting:

  1. The U.S. methods of voting are  among the least effective in the world. Minnesota’s (thus, Minneapolis’s)  approach is a prime example:  In  order to participate – to attempt to have my point of view represented – I must attend my precinct caucus and a host of different endorsing conventions, and then still need to vote in a Primary – all preceding the election in  November.

    And then after all that, a Mayor may be elected by less than half of the voters.

    With IRV, the  need for the Primary would be obviated – because I would have the opportunity,  by use of the IRV methodology, to vote in November for any of the  candidates who wants to run for an office.

  2. I find highly ineffective a system  that allows for election to any office – but most especially very important  roles such as mayor or governor – by a minority of the voters.  We deserve better than to have a mayor, or a governor, elected by even less than 40% of the voters – both of which have occurred in recent years.  We should  have runoffs (like the rest of the world) when no candidate achieves a simple  majority.
  3. We can easily implement the  technology that would allow our runoff voting to be automatic (“Instant”) by  having voters express their first, second, and third (etc.) choices for each  office when completing their ballots.  IRV is easy enough to implement, easy enough for voters to understand, and – via its implementation – each office holder would be elected by a MAJORITY of the voters.
  4. We are stymied by the dominance of  the two big parties and, without the introduction of a viable election (voting) alternative like IRV, we’re stuck with the current ineffectiveness of how our governments, political campaigns, and elections  work:
  • Too many potentially viable and  strong candidates decide to not run because they cannot/will not identify with  the two dominant parties, and they consequently view their chances of being  elected as quite minimized.
  • So-called “third” (alternative)  parties stand little or no chance of growing if they can’t get candidates  elected – so, without a meaningful change, we’re stuck with people getting  elected through only the DFL and Republican parties.  (Even the election of an Independents  Party governor in 1998 – elected by less than 40% of the voters – couldn’t pull  that party up subsequently to a meaningful level of support.  The Green Party, in the meantime, deserves plaudits for conviction, courage, and tremendous perseverance despite the obstacles.)
  • I want more choices of good  candidates for all of us to vote for, and I want their chances of being elected  to be on an equal footing with those endorsed by the big-two  parties.
  • And I would like that choice to be  one that doesn’t require me to vote in a useless Primary Election when it can be  done much more easily and more effectively via one election with IRV.  (Think, also, of the money, resources, and energy that could be saved by obviating the need for the Primary!)
  • I also believe that we would have  better politics and better campaigns were we to implement IRV – because all the  candidates would force each other to focus on the issues and the endorsed  candidates of the two dominant parties would not be reduced to campaigns of  personal attacks because of the attitude of entitlement backed by the big bucks  from each party encouraging and enabling them to win “at all  costs.”
  • I would like you all to endorse the  Charter Amendment to install IRV in all
    City-sponsored elections so  that all citizens of Minneapolis will have more
    meaningful choices, will have  their voices heard – by implementing a process
    that is open and fair, easy for  voters to understand, and easy enough to
    install.

    Please vote to endorse IRV being on the  ballot in November.  Minneapolis
    should lead the way in Minnesota on this issue!

    Sincerely yours,
    Dennis A.  Dillon

    ----- Forwarded message from Kevin Kinneavy  ----- 

    I am writing to encourage the Charter Commission to endorse the charter amendment adopting instant runoff voting for all city offices.  I fail to understand why anyone would be opposed to instant runoff voting (IRV) except for purely partisan political reasons -- and that is unacceptable for public officials who should be putting the greater good ahead of personal interests.

    IRV first came to my attention a number of years ago, and as a former math teacher, I was very interested to read mathematicians' discussions of the relative "fairness" of different voting methods.  While there's no such thing as a perfect system, IRV seems to be the "fairest"  system of voting available.  I believe strongly in fairness and that in a democracy, the voting system should reflect the "will of the people" as accurately as possible -- even if it means that my preferred candidate loses.  Hence, I was thrilled when I learned that Minneapolis was considering adopting IRV.

    In addition to being a fairer system, IRV will likely result in campaigns with more meaningful civil discourse.  I've been appalled by way candidates running for office have behaved in recent years -- at all levels of government.  While there are no guarantees, with IRV there is an incentive for candidates to behave more civilly toward one another and address a wider range of issues than under the current system since under IRV they must appeal to a broader constituency in order to win.

    They nay-sayers argue that IRV is too complicated -- flying in the face of evidence that it is, in fact, easier for people to understand.  Similarly, they say it's too expensive.  While there may be some costs associated with changing, the overall long-term savings should be greater.  Nonetheless, cost is not always the best way to make decisions.  In this case, the decision should be based on finding the best way to ensure that the citizens' views are accurately represented by elected officials.

    Minneapolis has the opportunity to become a leader in voting reform by adopting instant runoff voting for citywide elections.  Let's not let that opportunity pass us by.  I'm hopeful that we can lead the way toward adopting IRV more widely across the state and across the country.  Please do not allow this charter amendment to stall.

    Thanks.

    Kevin Kinneavy
    Lowry Hill East

    Ward 10 

    ----- Forwarded message from Cynthia Callanan  -----

    I support the proposed charter amendment for Instant Run-off Voting because I have found over the years that voter turnout for the primaries is shamefully low.  I have to admit that many years ago I missed voting in the primary for one reason or another, and blew it off thinking it didn't matter.  Last year in my ward's city council race I was working on one campaign and was shocked at the primary results.  The field of 10 candidates was narrowed to 2 based on a paltry turnout of 11% of voters!  Fortunately  my candidate was one of the last two standing for the general election, but since I had been to many of the
    debates, I felt strongly that at least one other candidate had been eliminated from the race too early.

    Since Instant Run-off Voting eliminates the primary, I believe that more voters will participate in voting, and will feel that their vote is counted and valued.  This can only help increase voter participation and minority participation.  The experience of other cities that have IRV shows that, in fact, more voters turn out for elections and communities of color are turning out in higher percentages.

    As an educator, I believe that educating voters is key to making government work more efficiently for everyone.  I suspect that more voters will want to educate themselves about the candidates and issues, so that they can choose a second-choice candidate.  As the voters learn more, they will make sure that they make it to the polls on election day.

    Peace,
    Cynthia Callanan
    public school teacher 

    Ward 8

    ----- Forwarded message from Robert Frame  -----

    I am writing to express my support for instant runoff voting and to urge the charter commission to reverse its decision on the recent IRV proposal by voting to put the current version on the ballot. Because IRV allows voters to show their ranked preference for candidates, we can make clear which political positions espoused by candidates reflect our values in a much more nuanced way than under the current system, with a simple change in current voting procedures.  This would change the dynamic of fearing "wasting" a vote by voting for a candidate we most desire to see in office who we think "can't" win.

    As candidates became clear that running negative campaigns could work against them, since they need to keep open the possibility of being voters' second choice, we would all benefit as campaigns become more informational and less bogged down by personal attacks in place of real discussion of policy and positions.

    These are some mighty big benefits to gain, along with the strong likelihood of saving money by not having to run primary campaigns.  To implement IRV would require ensuring the city has appropriate equipment and to re-train us voters into the voting process - very do-able actions.  With so much to gain in monetary and electoral benefits, it would be shame if the charter commission did not give city voters a chance to consider and vote on it.

    Thanks

    Robert Frame

    Ward 6

    ----- Forwarded message from Terry Solom  -----
     
    I'm writing to voice my support for Instant Runoff Voting.

    Making each vote mean more is the biggest reason I support Instant Runoff Voting.  I vote in all the general elections, but only about half the time in a primary--and I'm the type that has volunteered for campaigns in the past.  I research the candidates before I vote and think I'm a fairly conscientious voter.  However, often times my preferred candidate doesn't make it out of the primaries, and dampens my enthusiasm for voting in the general elections--and I end up voting for the lesser of two evils.

    Since the  primaries are so poorly attended, this means a minority of people (15% of registered voters in 2005!) are making the choices that the rest of us get to choose from.  That is NOT an inspiring democratic statistic.

    I really think that Instant Runoff Voting would get citizens more involved in voting:

    1. They would have a wider range of people to vote for.
    2. Their votes would count more, and
    3. There would be less tendency to say, "Well, the person I'm supporting isn't polling well, so I'm not going to vote."

    These are the effects I foresee happening if Instant Runoff Voting is allowed:

    1. Citizens will consider their candidates more carefully, both within and without the major parties.
    2. Citizens will vote for the candidate they like best, not the lesser of two evils that is so common nowadays.
    3. A greater array of opinions will be represented by more diverse elected officials.
    4. Better debates will happen, better ideas will be implemented, and a better future will be had.

    Please support Instant Runoff Voting.

    Terry Solom 

    Ward 12 

     

    ----- Forwarded message from Stephanie Avalon  -----

    I understand the Minneapolis Charter Commission is seeking public comment on the proposed Instant Runoff Voting charter amendment.  I am in support of this amendment for a number of reasons.  First, I would like to always cast a vote for the candidate I believe is best even if that candidate is unlikely to have broad enough support to win.  With a ranked ballot and instant runoff system, the actual voter support for third and fourth party candidates can be measured without causing a "spoiler" effect.  Second, I want our elected officials to govern with more support from the electorate. Instant Runoff Voting ensures that the winning candidate has a majority of the vote. Third, greater voter participation is important for our community. This system will increase interest and enthusiasm for the voting process. People won't be able to complain that they have to choose the "lesser of two evils" as more candidates will be on the ballot. This could revitalize the city elections.  Fourth, primary elections will no longer be necessary and this will ultimately save a great deal of money.

    I have a co-worker in my office from New Zealand who tells me that switching to this method in his country was very beneficial to marginalized communities.  I am hoping that Minneapolis will lead the way for Minnesota and that ultimately we can reform the voting process across the whole country.

    Thank you,

    Stephanie Avalon

    Ward 13 

    ----- Forwarded message from Robert Rossi  -----

    It is my understanding that a proposed amendment to the city's charter currently under consideration would modify the method used to elect many or all of our city leaders, such that voters would be given the opportunity to rank their preferences rather than have to choose a specific number of individuals.  As an active participant in the city's electoral process, I'd like to voice my support of such a change, and express my frustration with the public comments of Steve Cross offered at (http://groups.msn.com/MyRepublic/irv.msnw).

    I see far more than "a dime's worth of difference" between the candidates for most offices.  As an independent voter, I make time to learn about all the candidates for a race, and do not vote by party moniker or endorsement.  (I vote for people, not parties!)  But with our current system, I am faced with the harsh reality that without the endorsement of certain groups, my favorite candidate may not stand a chance to win.  In such cases I generally also have a strong preference amongst the candidates I see as having a chance of winning.  I then find myself, under the current system, in the position of having to choose between voting sincerely and voting strategically.  A transferable vote system would allow me to actually express the preferences I have developed amongst all the candidates, the result of the many "dollars worth of difference" between them.

    I would also like to point out that for any voters intimidated by the option of ranking candidates, I believe that all common transferable vote systems allow a voter to continue to operate as they have in the past, choosing just one (or three or five, however many seats may apply) candidate and not ranking any of the others.  Their vote would then be
    treated just as it always had in the past.  The difference is that a transferable vote would make full use of the information held by those who know about more than just one (or three or five, however many seats are open) candidate, rather than asking the voter to discard those insights and all the effort they made to learn about the candidates.

    My thanks for the thought and effort you are putting into the proposed charter amendments, and thank you for reading my comment.

    Sincerely,
    Robert C Rossi

    Ward 2

    ----- Forwarded message from Shaun Murphy  -----

    I am submitting my comments to you regarding the Instant Runoff Voting measure that is up for consideration.  I would like to see IRV available in city elections, because I would like to be able to vote for my favored candidate without throwing that vote toward one I do not favor at all.  Ranking my choices would be a simple and fair way to reflect my intentions at the ballot.

    Thank you for considering my point of view.

    Sincerely,

    Shaun Murphy
    Ward 2

    ----- Forwarded message from Joe Colihan  -----

    I believe that instant runoff voting would bring us one step closer to a true democracy.  I'd often like to vote for an independent candidate, but fear losing my opportunity to support -- more often than note -- a democratic candidate over a republican candidate.  Either way, I'd like the opportunity to vote my mind rather than being stuck with a mostly 2-party vote.

    I'd be willing to pass out brochures in my neighborhood....

    Here is a good argument for it:  most Americans are moderate, yet the only parties available are often representing the extremes.  Is that a good way to run a country?

    Thanks for listening,

    Joe Colihan

    Ward 1 

    ----- Forwarded message from Lynn Pepple  -----
     
    Why do I support Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) and encourage you to do the same? There are three primary reasons, and I will try to describe them as thoroughly yet briefly as I can.

    First of all, since I was first eligible to vote, I have considered myself an "independent" voter. I prefer to vote for the individual I think is the best PERSON for the job, rather than for a particular political party – even though I side more often with one major party than the other. Over the past 30 years, I have voted for Democratic candidates, for Republican candidates, and for independent candidates.

    I have also voted for several third-party candidates in past presidential elections. However, when doing so, I’ve often felt that I was "throwing away my vote" by voting for a candidate with little chance of winning, and sometimes allowing my LEAST favorite candidate to win the race. This would not be an issue if we used IRV, as the candidates would be ranked.

    With IRV/preferential voting, my second choice would be used if my first choice didn’t attain a majority of the votes. Under this system, I could vote my conscience without worrying about what the outcome might be if my first choice didn’t win. It also means that a candidate in a three-way race couldn’t win simply by having the MOST votes (like our last two gubernatorial races) -- he or she would have to have more than 50% of all the votes to be elected.

    RV would most likely encourage MORE third-party candidates to participate in the electoral process. Some may not see this as a benefit, but I feel that NOT being restricted to two choices is a definite advantage of IRV.

    My second reason for preferring IRV for Minneapolis elections is it would promote cleaner election campaigns. I get SO sick and tired of political ads and literature that resort to mud-slinging and name-calling. Polls have shown that most people dislike “dirty” political campaigns, yet the candidates continue to use them because THEY WORK.

    The use of IRV for our elections would force candidates to focus on the ISSUES rather than on personalities and negative campaigning.  In order to get supporters of other candidates to vote for them as their second choice, candidates would need to avoid the tactics that would normally alienate those voters. When IRV has been used in other cities, the result has been much more "civilized" campaigning.

    Lastly, our primary and general elections could be combined using IRV, saving both time and money. Plus, we all know that turnout for primary elections is extremely low compared to general elections, which means that a small percentage of voters gets to decide who is eliminated and who moves on to the general election. Is that really the fairest way to hold an election?

    The basic purpose of the primary is to narrow down the field of candidates in each party so there is a manageable number of candidates on the ballot for the general election (in other words, a “runoff” election). This can be accomplished in ONE election rather than two using IRV (an “instant” runoff!), thereby allowing MORE voters to determine which candidates will be the top contenders.

    By ranking your choices for each office, you are essentially getting the same outcome as the primary – the number of candidates gets narrowed down until one person is able to get a majority. For example, if there are 2 Democrats and 2 Republicans on the ballot, the election is over if one person gets more than 50% of the votes cast on the first round. If not, the one with the least number of votes is dropped off the ballot, and then you’re down to 3 choices. Again, if there’s no majority, another candidate gets eliminated. Because most people vote along party lines, you would very likely end up with one Democrat and one Republican – the same as if you had held a primary election.

    Some people think this system allows people to vote for MORE than one candidate for a particular office, but their concern is misplaced. If you look at the procedure closely, you will see that the end result is ONE VOTE PER PERSON – the same as our current method of voting.

    If you agree with my reasons for preferring IRV for the City of Minneapolis, then I strongly urge you to support putting IRV on the November ballot and allowing the citizens of Minneapolis to decide if IRV is right for them. It is my hope that Minneapolis WILL adopt IRV and will then become an example for others to follow.

    Sincerely,

    Lynn Pepple

    Ward 1

    PS – I am a member of the Minneapolis League of Women Voters, and the
    League also supports IRV for the City of Minneapolis.

    ----- Forwarded message from Dave Nelson  -----

    I usually vote for a 3rd party candidate because the two major parties do not represent my views on many, many issues.

    I used to vote for the lesser of two evils, but then the lesser wasn't much better than the evil itself.  Consequently, I decided I needed to be "for" something than "against".

    IRV would promote people voting "for" a candidate rather than "against".

    IRV would promote more diverse solutions to problems.

    IRV would give everyone a sense that majority rule won, rather than someone
    winning by getting in the back door.

    I can't prove this, but I have a sense there would be less voter fraud. This is a huge issue these days with electronic voting, minimal paper trails, 58000 complaints alone in Ohio in the last election, large number of voters being prohibited from voting because of alleged problems, etc.

    I could think up some more reasons, but these are the first ones to come to mind.

    Given the nature of a corporate media these days and voting being a fundamental basis for our supposed democracy, it is imperative to have the fairest voting mechanism that we can have.  IRV is much better than the current system.

    Dave Nelson
    Age 67, former Mpls Public School teacher

    Ward 12

    ----- Forwarded message from Robert Hand  -----
     
    I strongly support and encourage adoption of  Instant Runoff balloting.  As a member of the American Counseling Association, I have see Instant Runoff work successfully for many years. We need to adopt it now!  Thank you for your work on this isssue.

    Robert Hand

    Ward 7 

    ----- Forwarded message from Nancy Beach  -----

    I have become more and more discouraged about the candidates who make it to the general election ballot via a process of poorly attended caucuses and party conventions and low-participation primaries.  If we had IRV, the winnowing process among candidates could take place at the general election, when more people vote.  At a candidate event recently, I had the opportunity to vote in a mock IRV.  It was easy and no one seemed to have trouble understanding how to do it.  I've heard that in other places where it has been used, there has been little or no confusion.

    In addition, I would like to encourage alternatives to the two major parties.  Right now, it seems like a vote for an alternative party candidate is a wasted vote.  With IRV, people could vote for the candidate they really prefer, with their other choices going to candidates they could "live with, with less fear of ending up with a someone they really oppose.

    Nancy Beach
    Ward 13

    ----- Forwarded message from Jeanne LaBore -----

    Please support the charter amendment for Instant Runoff voting in Minneapolis.

    • I want my vote for a 3rd party candidate to count!
    • I don't want to elect officials who receive less than a majority vote!
    • I want a fairer, more democratic, and more efficient election system!

    Jeanne LaBore

    Ward 12

     

    ----- Forwarded message from Lisa Boyd  -----

     
    I am strongly in favor of the use of Instant Run-off Voting (IRV) for the city of Minneapolis (at least as a starting place) for many reasons.

    It is a more democratic voting method allowing for more real choice of candidates. It increases voter participation. It eliminates the "spoiler" effect (where you vote for the "lesser of two evils" rather than your real choice). It makes campaigns more positive, since opponents will be seeking your second choice spot and hence cannot afford to "trash" your first choice candidate. And finally, it will save money and allow candidates to focus
    more clearly on a real campaign for election by eliminating the need for a primary.

    I hope that the Minneapolis Charter Commission will look favorably on the proposed amendment to the city charter to use IRV for city elections in Minneapolis.

    Sincerely,
    Lisa Boyd

    Ward 9 

    ----- Forwarded message from Diane E. Hinderlie -----
     
    I'm in my fifties, so am concerned with my children and future grandchildren. IRV will improve the situation for them. It simply lets the voter do "on a sheet" what the Iowa caucuses do "with their feet." The voter is able to participate in the various "rounds" without their vote being thrown out, as it is now/ or sent home, which would be the case in IA if they didn't let people walk to their next choice.

    The math is no more complicated than in lower elementary school - addition, subtraction, not even multiplication or division. People travel and live abroad more often than when I was young. If you're in Europe or other advanced industrial democracies during elections, it's noticeable how more "civil" the discourse is compared to here. Also that more parties participate and that several actually get to the "desk" (executive offices) or "table" (boards, legislatures, etc.) That's because they use advanced voting, and continually improve their systems.

    How can we ceaselesslly test, test, test our kids, especially in math and science - yet as adults refuse to update the math in something as important as democratic elections? Please adopt this simple change for the better. 

    Diane E. S.-Hinderlie

    St. Louis Park 

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